Born in 1960, Dennis Foley is a lifelong Chicagoan who grew up on the city's South side. Before reaching the age of 12, Foley's family had already moved nine times bouncing from one Chicago-area apartment to the next. The City of Chicago itself almost always finds its way onto Dennis' pages, becoming a distinctive character in and of itself. He often writes about the seedy side of Chicago and the strange agents who wander its streets. Dennis credits his parents, much like many children, with being the primary influences in his young life. However, he states that he was always being pulled in completely different directions by the long arms of his parents, and this constant tug, these parental battles to claim one's soul, are visible in most of his works. Dennis' short stories, memoir pieces and freelance work have appeared in a number of literary venues including HairTrigger, Poetry Motel, The2ndHand, The Chicago Red Streak, The Beverly Review, Gravity, The Use of PersonalNarratives in the Helping Profession, bluelit.com, and centerstagechicago.com. Dennis’ first book,The Street’s and San Man’s Guide To Chicago Eats, won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association Book Awards—1st Place for Humor. This guidebook sold its first print run in one month and became one of Lake Claremont Press’ best-selling titles ever. The Drunkard’s Son (Side Street Press, 2012), a memoir about growing up amidst family and neighborhood turmoil in 1960s Chicago, sold its first print run in three months and is about to conclude its second print run. As for his screenplays and films, The Blue Circus won the GOLD MEDAL for Best Original TV Pilot in the Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest in 2013. Dennis' script Old Bob recently received great reviews and filming for the movie is set to begin late in the summer of 2015. The child actors and director have already been selected. The remaining roles are expected to be filled shortly. Dennis' adapted script, Faces on the Wall, is also currently in the hands of various producers. Dennis holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College-Chicago and a J.D. from The John Marshall Law School. He earned a B.A. in history from Christian Brothers University in Memphis. Currently, Dennis works as a freelance writer and lawyer and coaches lacrosse at his alma mater, St. Laurence High School in the Chicago area. Over the years, Dennis has had the pleasure of holding a number of interesting jobs including: bouncer, beer line cleaner, prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, electrician, dog walker, newspaper deliveryman, teacher, and coach. Happily married to Susan, Dennis is also the proud father of Matt, Pat, and Mike.
How old is Dennis? Dennis was born in 1960 and is 54 years old.
Where did he grow up? He grew up on Chicago's South side and surrounding suburbs.
Where did he go to school? For writing, Dennis went to Columbia College-Chicago where he earned his MFA in Fiction Writing (2002). He went to undergrad at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN (1982), and earned his law degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago (1985).
Where is his home now? Dennis still lives on Chicago's South side.
Is he married? Dennis is happily married to Susan and they have three boys--Matt-23, Pat-21 and Mike-13.
How can I send Dennis a letter or email? You can send an email to Dennis directly at email@example.com.
How can I arrange an interview with him? Send an email to Dennis directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I get him to read at our library, bookstore or school? Please see the information above.
Who are his favorite writers? Dennis is a huge fan of Tim O'Brien, Tobias Wolff, Kaye Gibbons, Robert Penn Warren and Hubert Selby, Jr. Click HERE to go to his Favorite Books page for more info.
Who are Dennis' favorite filmmakers? Dennis is a huge fan of Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) and Alexander Payne (Nebraska, About Schmidt).
What other jobs, besides writing, has Dennis had? From the way back days, Dennis was a paperboy. He also worked as a bouncer at various Chicago bars to earn money for law school. For much of his adult life, Dennis has worked as a lawyer and teacher.
What brings him the most joy? Spending time with his sons.
Other than writing what else does Dennis enjoy? Dennis says, "Whoa horsey! Be careful what you ask for. An open-ended question like this could shake some strange stuff out of my closet." Dennis thoroughly enjoys having a cold brew and sharing stories with his neighborhood and college buddies. He also has cooking high on his list where he enjoys experimenting with various recipes to get just the right taste. He claims to make the best ribs known to man, a fantastic potato salad, mouth-watering deviled eggs, and a solid giardiniera. He is getting ready to experiment with pickled eggs.
How does Dennis come up with his story ideas? He pulls much from the past and writes about what he knows--Chicago.
When does he write? Dennis is a spurt writer. There are times when he writes non-stop for days on end, and days and weeks when he does not write at all. Often his other jobs dictate his writing time. When the writing starts to come though, everything else gets put on hold.
Where does he write? Typically is his home office. However, he still drives to various locations in Chicago when he is working on gritty scenes for a story.
Does Dennis prefer to write screenplays or prose? Dennis has indicated that he does not have a preference. "I like the way the dialogue moves everything in a screenplay," Dennis said, "but I also enjoy the descriptive passages a novel, for instance, allows. You definitely don't get that in a screenplay."
How long does it take him to write a book? Dennis started what would become The Drunkard's Son in 1998. He wrote much of the material while a student in the MFA program at Columbia. The material sat on a shelf for about 5 years before an idea struck Dennis and the book then morphed into its current form. The Streets and San Man food book was penned in less than one year.
When did he know he could be a writer? Anyone who knew Dennis when he was younger would never have guessed that he would become a writer. Dennis was, as he says, "not a very bright bulb" when he was younger. A classic late bloomer, things started to really click for Dennis in law school. Dennis indicated that the first time he ever received a grade of "A" on any writing related assignment was during his first semester of law school in a legal writing class. When he first heard his material read in class during his first year at Columbia College, he knew then that he had the potential to write.
What is he currently working on? Dennis will be filming the drama, Not a Stranger, late in the Summer of 2015 in the Chicago area. He also just finished a crime thriller , Faces on the Wall.He also recently won the Gold Medal for Best Original TV Pilot in the Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest. He is writing other episodes for the series at this time. Carolyn Jenks represents Dennis on these matters as well. Dennis also will be assisting with the compilation of short stories, essays and poems for a book by Chicago writers.
Any advice for new writers? " 'Write what you know' is an old cliche but it's true," Dennis says. Dennis writes about Chicago and its neighborhoods and the problems he experienced first hand as a child. In Faces on the Wall, Dennis again writes about what he knows--the law, crime, the dark side of man, unlikely heroes, and the city.
The Books and Scripts
How long did it take to write The Drunkard's Son? On and off for about 12 years. Dennis worked on a number of other pieces in that time and The Drunkard's Son material gathered dust on a shelf for over 5 years.
What problems, if any, do you experience while writing? Dennis claims one of his problems is staying focused. "Putting words to the page certainly makes me feel so very alive, but it can also be grueling, ugly and painful at times. Often near the end of a work in progress, Dennis says that, "my brain begins to move on to other maters. Other stories start to flash before me with such inspiration that I just can't ignore them." This is why Dennis often writes numerous pieces simultaneously and has, at times, experienced difficulty wrapping up his longer pieces.
What is the very first thing Dennis ever published? A poem entitled, "Now is the Time to Sleep," in Poetry Motel.
How long did it take to write the Streets and San Man's Guide to Chicago Eats? Six months.
How did you know when your books were done? Dennis insists that while he has difficulty wrapping up his writing, he always knows when the book is done. "When the book starts to become like that person in the neighborhood or relative you can't stand to see or that you'd like to punch in the face, I know the book is done. If I can't turn the pages any more because it pains me to do so, the re-writes are over. So it's done when it's done."
When did Dennis write his first screenplay? Dennis started and completed his first script in December of 2013. He received word two months later that his script, The Blue Circus, won the GOLD MEDAL for Best Original TV Pilot in the Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest.
Why did Dennis write Not a Stranger?Dennis loves baseball and he is a man possessed of undying hope. Those two elements are fast at work in Not a Stranger. "I had a blast writing Not a Stranger," Dennis said. "In our world, adults usually take care of the kids, but in Not a Stranger, that role is definitely reversed. The character Ray is one of my favorites. For a young kid, he possesses a very old soul."